Alex, another scenario is that there will be other technologies that superdeed 3D printing. I am thinking of real 3D visualization. There may always be a use for both, but 3D printing is not as mainstream as it might seem.
Chuck, the situation here is not very linear. The high end can mean either the materials or the users, but as far as who buys the equipment versus who uses a service bureau, that depends primarily on company size, not industry or application.
I think Beth's point paralleling what happened with high-end copiers and what's happening now with low-enbd 3D printers is well taken. In fact, Cobb gave that same parallel during the interview.
To Alex's comment about market bifurcation, that's a good question. I think the market is already bifurcating, but in a slightly different way: between low-end cheaply produced products for Everyman and Everywoman from either service bureaus or one's own 3D printer, versus higher-end commercial applications, both in-house and through service bureaus.
As Beth notes, this is of a piece with the mainstreaming of 3D printing. I'd also point out, though, that mainstreaming is just a smidgen away from commoditization, and when that happens, the margins tighten, there's less profit to be made, and innovation similarly slows. So what does this mean as far as 3D printing for prototyping? Will we have a bifurcated market, where low-end products are prototyped using cheap services, and high-quality, high-end stuff is done in-house or at more sophisticated service bureaus? That may not be bad, but then what happens to the middle (user)?
This is a really cool strategy and yet another example of just how quickly 3D printing is advancing into mainstream organizations. Offering a packaged solution with all the fixings as a lease option is the way high-end copiers made their way into organizations and now they're a fixture. While the numbers around leasing may not hold up long term compared to a capital expenditure on a 3D printer, my guess is the trend will get companies in the door to try the technology. Over time, they'll likely replace the lease option with a price-competitive 3D printer offering, but they won't likely give up the 3D print capabilities.
A middle school team from Rochester, Mich., has again nabbed the grand prize in the annual international Future City Competition, which drew students from 37 regions of the United States, as well as from England and China.
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